The Long Road to a Transformative Data Revolution

The current excitement around the role of data in supporting the delivery of the sustainable development agenda is in itself revolutionary. A few years ago the discussions were limited to a few organisations directly dealing with data. More encouraging now is the flurry of activities in-country by data enthusiasts to mobilise government, civil society, donors, multilateral organisations, academia, and media, among others; to join hands in ecosystems that can harness the data revolution to address a range of data and development challenges.


Full house at the national data revolution roadmaps workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 12 – 13 August 2016

As part of our work on this agenda, CIVICUS, through the DataShift initiative has joined forces with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) to galvanise political commitment, align strategic priorities, foster collaboration, spur innovation and build trust in the booming data ecosystems of the 21st century. One of the ways this has been pursued so far is through a series of national data revolution roadmap workshops organised by the GPSDD and led by national governments and partners. The series kicked off in April in Colombia, followed by Sierra Leone in June, and subsequently in Tanzania and Kenya in August 2016.


The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri (third left) during a panel session at the national data revolution roadmaps workshop in Nairobi, 15 – 16 August 2016


The back to back workshops in Tanzania (12 – 13 August) and Kenya (15 – 16 August) – both DataShift pilot countries – explored how stakeholder ecosystems can meaningfully harness data to drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level. A unique feature of the workshops was the blending of local and international actors who shared a platform to showcase their work, mull over challenges, share experiences, and brainstorm ways to shape the country-level data revolution agenda. Learning from each other is the best way to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

Challenges with data collection, access, and use that were raised during the workshops had many similarities across the countries. However, the diversity in socio-economic, cultural and political systems makes one realise that we need highly contextualised approaches to data ecosystems. Attending and facilitating sessions at the workshops also reminds one that the data revolution will not happen on its own. Efforts made by the GPSDD and other players to catalyse action, especially at the national level; like the Office of the Deputy President in Kenya, National Bureau of Statistics Tanzania and the Open Data Council in Sierra Leone, need to be fully supported by other governments and additional stakeholders.

Change processes in-country take decades, mindsets have to change, social and cultural beliefs must be reshaped to align to new ways of doing things, and partnerships have to be forged to do the actual work. It is however doable, if we make the right connections – this was demonstrated in the presentations by  Kenya Health Data Collaborative, Kwantu, Open Institute, Kenya Open Data Initiative, #NationNewsplex, Map Kibera and ourselves (DataShift), among others, during the Nairobi workshop. We therefore need to urgently connect the dots and complement one another.

The call to LNOB (“leave-no-one-behind”) will not be as easy as ABC. Significant gaps remain in trying to establish who are in real terms already or at the greatest risk of being left behind. In most places, we have barely scratched the surface (financially, technically, or otherwise) in fully understanding where they live and what their needs are; yet with only 14 years to realise the SDGs, we don’t have any time to waste! DataShift’s exploits with the Open Institute in localising the SDGs at the community level in Lanet Umoja Location, Nakuru County, in Kenya with Chief Francis Kariuki, hopes to demonstrate (at a small scale) the sort of effort needed to reach everyone, including the most marginalised, to better understand their needs and priorities, and the kinds of resources needed by government and others to meaningfully impact their lives.

National Statistical Offices (NSOs) are sounding more progressive and receptive to multi-stakeholder engagements and approaches on the data revolution. They are however, burdened by severe capacity gaps and limited resources. It can never be overemphasised that they need urgent support to define practical mechanisms for coordinating the new age National Statistical System (NSS) of data producers and users. And yes, it’s also time for the political goodwill in our countries to yield domestic resources to fully support these national processes – there’s a limit to what the GPSDD and its champions can do for us.


Over 300 participants attended the community SDG 5 Forum in Lanet Umoja Nakuru County in Kenya on 23 August, hosted by Chief Kariuki. Organised in partnership with the Open Institute and DataShift. It explored ways to domesticate global goals for local impact, with a special focus on gender equality

Political will can be a great tool for mobilising stakeholders and resources. Its absence, however, can also break great initiatives as a result of the push and pull for power, resources, and relevance. The impact of politics, therefore, is not to be underestimated. We need well-defined (and clearly understood) accountability frameworks and rules and responsibilities that apply across the board, not just for government, to effectively overcome negative political machinations.

It can be noted from the engagements thus far, for the data revolution to fully support the delivery of SDGs, it needs:

  1. Policy/legal frameworks and well defined national roadmaps that catalyse reforms, provide visionary leadership and create the infrastructure necessary for integration and implementation in formal government planning and development processes.
  2. A natural home in a core institution or set of institutions (political, technical and financial), that are responsible for coordinating and providing leadership for its delivery, and can be held to account for their actions.
  3. Full ownership by various arms of government (executive, judiciary, and legislature) who commit and allocate domestic money and other resources to support its implementation and concrete action.
  4. Awareness to be raised so that stakeholders, especially citizens and civil society organisations, fully understand it, own it, and are empowered to use it to take action and to hold governments accountable.  

A truly transformative data revolution should be seen as one of several major steps in a long term transition to sustainable development. This must last well beyond 2030 to support whatever post-2030 global framework is adopted. We must therefore do what needs to be done now while also creating incentives, nurturing partnerships, and strengthening institutions through which longer-term visions can be achieved. A special focus on those at the highest risk of being left behind; those in vulnerable, conflict-ridden and fragile states ravaged by chronic and absolute poverty, hunger and instability would be a great starting point. It’s great harvesting low-hanging fruit, but if we are to change the discourse for humanity, then energy and resources need to be channelled to address the structural causes of poverty, instability, and marginalisation. This includes climate change – which is already hitting us all, but the most vulnerable the hardest. But the convergence of technology, sustainable development expertise and citizen voice that the data revolution can foster, offers an incredible opportunity to better understand these challenges, along with how to address them.

Lastly, the affront on civic space across the world is, and will continue to be, a major threat not just to citizens, but to governments themselves. CIVICUS has documented serious violations of civic space in 109 countries last year alone. Unless the tide changes, the rhetoric around meaningful partnerships and data ecosystems amounts to nothing but double-speak. Resources are also rapidly dwindling and the natural instinct for governments is to focus on a few selected priorities (often political). Never has there been a greater opportunity for inclusive socio-economic transformation through the emerging technological revolution, innovation, and citizen empowerment. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are no longer a choice, they are an absolute must.

Follow our conversations on Twitter via #DataShift.


Call for Researchers: East Africa Gender Data Research

DataShift Review of Official and Citizen-Generated Gender Data (CGD) for SDGs Monitoring

In Kenya and Tanzania, DataShift seeks to demonstrate concretely how multiple sources of data, particularly citizen-generated data (CGD), can be harnessed to monitor sustainable development goals (SDGs) progress, while building the interest, capacity and collaboration of civil society in generating and using data – with a special focus on SDG 5.

DataShift is seeking a research team to carry out applied research to assess gender data availability, accessibility, quality, comparability and gaps in Kenya and Tanzania respectively, on SDG 5 and other pre-determined and prioritised gender targets and indicators in other SDGs.


The consultants will assess the gender data availability, accessibility, and quality from a range of relevant data types and data sources. The value and role of citizen-generated gender data produced nationally or locally in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is less well documented in the East African context. The consultants will review gender indicators related to but not limited to, health, education, women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, social exclusion of women and girls, water and sanitation, time surveys on the value of unpaid care and domestic work, effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life, among others.

The research will mainly target national level actors but be complemented with specific case studies, particularly citizen-generated data initiatives from the sub-national level.


The consultants will be required to produce detailed reports and executive summaries for Kenya and Tanzania respectively. The reports will synthesise research findings, drawing conclusions and making recommendations for targeting government policy and decision makers, civil society, development partners, researchers, among others.

Timelines and Deadline

The assignments in both Kenya and Tanzania will begin on Monday, 19 September 2016 and conclude by a strict deadline of Friday, 2 December 2016.

See the full Terms of References – East Africa Gender Data Research for more information.

Application process

To apply, please submit applications to by 7 September 2016.

Interviews will be held between 12 and 13 September 2016 and the successful consultants notified by Friday, 16 September 2016.

Kenya National Workshop on SDGs: Roadmaps and Data Ecosystems, 15 – 16 August

After an exciting workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania this past weekend, the Data Roadmap on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) kicks off in Nairobi, Kenya today.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) in collaboration with the Office of the Deputy President of Kenya are convening a global network of governments, NGOs, businesses, and national level stakeholders; to strengthen the inclusivity, trust, and innovation in the way that data is used to address Kenya’s sustainable development.

In her speech at the Political Launch of the GPSDD, H.E. (DR) Ambassador Amina Mohammed affirmed that Kenya’s promise of inclusive development can only be achieved by creating an inclusive data ecosystem involving government, private sector, academia, non-profit organisations, innovators, local communities and development partnerships. The Kenya national workshop on SDGs Roadmaps and data ecosystems follows on these commitments to improve informational aspects of decision-making; by engaging these multiple stakeholders through practical collaboration and taking deep dives on data driven/policy initiatives.

The workshop aims to:

  • demonstrate the potential for transformation, using data for decision-making at national and subnational levels;
  • increase technical collaboration between Anchor Partners and Champions of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development and multiple-stakeholder in the Republic of Kenya towards defining an integrated path forward for the data roadmap;
  • prepare for a data driven engagement in Vision 2030 MTPIII process and County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) process.

During the two-day workshops – the working groups will take a look at the agreed work plans for supporting countries at national and subnational levels (including cities), to develop and implement multi-stakeholder roadmaps for harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development based on local and national priorities for SDGs and national plans. This will also include a session on citizen-generated data (CGD) in support of SDGs, presented by DataShift’s, Davis Adieno.

CIVICUS World Alliance is an anchor member of the GPSDD. Read more about the partnership on

For more information visit

You can follow Davis’ participation at the workshops on Twitter: @DavisAdieno

Tanzania Data Roadmap for Sustainable Development National Workshop, 12-13 August 2016

Starting today the National Bureau of Statistics – Tanzania in partnership with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) will convene the Data Roadmap for Sustainable Development National Workshop in Dar es Salaam Tanzania.

The workshop brings together representatives of major stakeholder groups, to start working more closely toward sustainable development goals (SDG) monitoring. It also presents a good opportunity to showcase the ongoing work by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Tanzania, and provides a platform for networking with regional and global players working on data revolution for SDGs.

Key objectives of the workshop are to:

  1. Create awareness among Tanzanians (including; key government officials, CSO and private sector) about SDGs and the roles different parties can play.
  2. Cover the SDG indicators with the 5-year development plan (2016/17-2020/21) indicators, to establish concurrent monitoring for both programming tools. This will align national priorities and Vision 2025 plans with the 2030 SDG goals.
  3. Localise SDGs in the national five-year development plans, such that plans may be aligned at the sub-national level to execute Vision 2025.
  4. Understanding and mapping of the data ecosystem, including; capacity and budget aspects, and possible sources of support.
  5. Define early wins, short and medium term actions and deliverables for moving the data roadmap process forward so that it contributes to achieving and monitoring progress on sustainable development.

On the second day of the workshop (Saturday 13th August), DataShift will be facilitating two break-out workshops on specific data areas highlighting data gaps and early wins. These will be; 1) On SDG 5 (Gender Data workshop) jointly with the Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP), and 2) the second session on the Data Revolution in action, focusing on Citizen-generated data; in the morning and afternoon respectively.

The workshops pose a great opportunity for organisations to share their story and experience in revolutionising the use of data in tracking gender related issues in Tanzania; including through citizen-generated data and the use of technology, such as mobile phone technology.

CIVICUS World Alliance is an anchor member of the GPSDD. Read more about the partnership on

For more information visit

Please follow @DavisAdieno on Twitter for updates during the workshop.

Calling citizen-generated data projects: we want to support you

Are you working on a project involving citizen-generated data (CGD) in Argentina, Nepal, Kenya or Tanzania? Does your project need some help to get to the next level? Then you came to the right place: the DataShift is looking for citizen-generated data projects to support, to help improve their planning and implementation. Support will vary depending on the organisation’s needs, but will include mentorship, resources, peer exchange and technical support.

Read more